Protein is key to building muscle and leading a generally healthy life. It is essential for tissue repair, maintenance and growth of new cells; has a direct impact on, athletic performance and metabolism which may improve fat loss results. For many, hitting protein requirements can be a challenge. It is always best to achieve macronutrient targets through well-balanced whole foods; rather than struggling, an easy solution is to introduce supplements to a meal plan. Simply put, protein supplements are a convenient to help fill the nutritional gaps. Research also suggests that protein supplementation can improve performance and recovery on top of retaining and gaining muscle.
The world of supplements can be a confusing, perilous place with its own language. A multi-billion-dollar industry growing exponentially each year, as of 2021, over $20 billion is spent globally on supplements with endorsements from elite athletes, movie stars and celebrities a plenty. There are many different protein options available, each with its own benefits and considerations. The key is to look for a product high in protein, low in carbohydrate and fat. Furthermore, considering Essential Amino Acid (EAA) and Branched-Chain Amino Acid (BCAA) profile and ratios should also be considered.
Amino acids (20) are the building blocks of protein and essentially the building blocks of life. A group of 9, Essential Amino Acids (EAA) as the name suggests, are essential to bodily function, and must be obtained through diet as the body cannot make its own. Branched-Chain Amino Acids (BCAA) are a group of 3 EAAs, specifically leucine, isoleucine and vailine. A potent muscle builder, studies also suggest that they can increase athletics performance, decrease fatigue and reduce muscle soreness.
The biggest players on the market are diary derivatives, specifically whey. Whey is a naturally occurring component of milk separated to make cheese (think Little Miss Muffet). A complete protein, whey is high in B-complex vitamins, calcium, and other micronutrients, as well as fast acting and so ideal after weight training. Whey is the most research proven, peer reviewed and considered the gold standard when it comes to protein supplementation. Products originating from Australia or New Zealand are subject to some of the highest global livestock quality control standards.
- Whey Protein Isolate (WPI): High in overall protein value, typically averaging 90% protein and 3% carbohydrate. Fast acting, it is a powerful post-workout protein hit. One of the most refined dairy-based protein types, it has the lowest lactose value at 99.7% making it an option for those with lactose intolerances.
- Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC): A more basic dairy protein with a lower concentration of protein, (around 78% and 5% carbohydrate). The slower rate of absorption, makes it best used between meals to boost daily protein intake and provide a longer lasting protein release. WPCs are more cost effective and a great starting point into protein supplements but do have a higher lactose content and sometimes more difficult to digest. Unless otherwise specified, generally whey proteins will be a blend of WPI & WPC at varying ratios.
- Calcium Caseinate or Casein Protein: Another milk derivative. A slow release protein averaging a 6 hour break down, best used as a high protein snack or evening protein boost. Typically thicker, more filling, a great tool for combating cravings for high carbohydrate and fatty foods. Casein is high in glutamine, a muscle building amino acid which helps fortify the immune system.
Always bear in mind that supplements should be viewed as just that, supplements. When choosing to supplement with protein powders, select a product that best suits your goals and needs. Speak to your trainer for more into, further questions and explanations.